During our 16 day trip to Pakistan, I had an incredible opportunity to visit a small village just outside Gujranwala, Punjab.

When we arrived, I really didn’t now what to expect, but it tuned out to be an unforgettable time of community, hospitality, and incredibly delicious local Punjabi food.

In this post, I’m going to share with you my experience eating a desi (local) breakfast in Punjab, Pakistan.

Note: This article was written by Joel Bruner.

Wazirabad
Kot Yousef in Wazirabad, Pakistan

Passion is More Than Just the Food

I have a serious passion for food. Really though, its more than just the amazing flavors that excite me.

Being able to spend time eating together with the people who call a meal ‘their food,’ increases the joy I get from eating all the more. Experiences like these are what gives me the drive to travel, and are a main source of motivation for me.

In the small town of Kot Yousef (in Wazirabad, Pakistan), I was experiencing exactly this. Traditional Punjabi food, enjoying it together with the people responsible (for the meal, and the incredible day as well).

This made me think about the larger picture of having travel not just as a hobby, but as a lifestyle.

I am thinking here of some of the things in my earlier years in life that help to start the mental preparations for travel. I see that I did all of these (or readied myself to do them through imagination and visualisation) even before I made travel a practice in my physical daily life.

I would like to share four practices that I find are very helpful in living the life of a traveler.

Pakistani food
Community gathered to prepare breakfast

First, Build Excitement to Travel by Reading

I have always loved reading, ever since I can remember.

One of the oldest and most pure forms of both entertainment and education, all you need is time and an imagination.

Luckily, most of us are blessed with both, and we can begin a journey of new learning right now.

My favorite authors always wrote about life in Asia, and usually it was Central Asia and the Far East. Even though I spent most of my childhood years in the continent of Africa, Asia has always been intriguing and magical.

Now, I am so lucky to be living in Asia, and even more than that, I’m traveling to places that literally came from my childhood dreams.

Chapathi at Kot Yousef
Hand-rolled Chapathi on a hot iron grill

Second, Visit Intriguing and Magical Places

The world is full of magical places, and they by no means need to be physically far away to be special.

I could easily imagine writing a book about a small town like this town of Kot Yousef, or seeing it as a picture in a show-case scene of a local movie. As fascinating as this may be for someone reading or watching, for the people in the movie, it is their normal and every day life.

It was so picturesque, so full of ultra-relaxing make-yourself-at-home type feelings, the kind of setting where its easy to be appreciative – everything is so interesting and new!

But I also found myself thinking about how anyone anywhere can just visit a place they have never been before, and can also give themselves a chance for a unique experience like this.

Let me say that again – with a positive and open mind-set, I can guarantee you the chance of a truly great and unique experience, anytime you go anywhere new.

And even better yet, just a few minutes after arrival, you just may find that the air is already full of the most wonderful smoky smells…

Traditional Punjab Food in Pakistan
Every single dish from scratch – home-cooked traditional flavor cannot be beaten

If Possible, Choose a Home-Stay over a Hotel

This family is so kind, we were staying with them at their home, the family providing for us since the night before.

We woke up in their village, enjoying some tea and fresh fruit together before taking a stroll. Walking to the buildings where the family cares for their cows and horses, we got to see and get a feel for the town in a way that driving through just doesn’t allow.

Arriving at around 9AM, preparations were well under way for what was quite obviously going to be a feast of home-cooking.

The smells were deliciously hot and smoky, and I couldn’t wait to see what they would do with some of the ingredients they were using.

Note: I am not saying that a hotel room is a bad thing, but it does limit the amount of possible unique experiences that you may be able to fit into each 24 hours you spend traveling.

Finally, Never be afraid to lend a hand

First of all, making this meal requires several of our hosts working together taking turns.

Repeating pounding, churning, and kneading actions, bringing together all of the different ingredients, from the beginning there was real love going into every dish we would eat.

When making food truly from scratch, there is a lot of work that needs doing, most of which we might not even think about while just cooking in a kitchen.

I saw them breaking branches to be set on fire under various cooking pans. Sifting out several types of flour, and then kneading huge portions of it together, making Roti, Chapati, Paratha and Puri (different breads). Finally, churning fresh milk from buffalo in the pen directly next to make the Curries, the Dal (lentils)and even Raita (yoghurt).

Even the almonds and pistachios for dessert need shelling, husking, and crushing. All of it takes work, sometimes even real physical strength – I am very grateful to the strong mothers and grandmothers who took such good care of all of this for us!

Traditional Punjabi Food
Traditional Punjabi Food – breakfast

Traditional Punjabi Food

I hope you can gain some insight from this experience, and I very much hope that this gives you inspiration to go out and live some adventures of your own – even if they will happen in your own homeland.

On that note, lets get back to some food, because its time for the Dish of the Day.

My favorite dish was the Aloo Paratha, which is an iron-skillet bread full of potato and spices. The raw ingredients form a thick layer on top of a few generous spoonfuls of Desi Ghee (homemade clarified butter).

Making this food requires two pieces of Paratha, and after the filling goes in, the second piece lies on top, and the edges fold together.

Each potato-packed Paratha cooks for a few minutes per side, and then receives a final rub from yet another spoon of desi ghee – the importance of desi ghee in Pakistani food cannot be underestimated.

saag
Amazing saag, a type of leafy green stew

Hospitality AND Incredible Cooking Skills.

A smoky feeling from the charcoal accompanies the buttery richness of the Desi Ghee so perfectly, and the heavy ingredients, like potatoes, make all of the dishes such warm and filling food.

This Aloo Paratha is a dish that I believe was actually designed to have you licking off your fingers after each bite. This is a real comfort food of Pakistan, and I love ripping off chunks of this Paratha to dip into a spicy Saag or mutton curry.

tent pegging
Tent pegging in Pakistan

Bonus – Tent-Pegging, a local tradition

I may never even have heard of this sport before, but that doesn’t mean its not a favorite pastime in several parts of the world.

Raising and training of horses, grooming and caring for them, and then showing off their strength and skill, all are integral parts of this Central Asian sport that has been played since the 4th century BC.

“Tent-pegging” is just what it sounds like, the riders aim simply to put a spear tip through a tiny wooden ‘peg.’

Incredibly fast and fun to watch, it is very intense during each rider/horse sprint. They push the horse to a full gallop (amazingly, at this speed, the back of the horse is actually at its most stable and rigid), and they must also be careful to not spear themselves or the horse as well.

The ‘peg’ itself can be anything, a chunk of wood here today, but the spearing is what impresses me the most. It was heavy even with two hands, you would really need some great arm strength to level it in front of the horse, keeping it perfectly in line with a target.

Very fun to watch, and a great way to finish our visit to Kot Yousef village in Pakistan.

Pakistani food
Lunch before we departed

Incredibly Gracious Hosts

The entire day was wonderful, and I have nothing more to say than a huge “Thank You” to the entire Bagdi family, and everyone who made our day possible.

I absolutely love being able to witness the creation of food first-hand. The way that people who create these foods live, and getting to see how that food sustains these people’s lives on a day-to-day basis, that is something truly special.

I hope reading excites your imagination like it does for me, and I hope you enjoy reading more about the details from this memorable and incredible day.

Watch the full video

Don’t forget to check out the full series of Pakistan videos!

30 comments. I'd love to hear from you!

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  • Rizwan Arif

    5 days ago

    HI,
    I lived in Gujranwala thanks for visiting Pakistan and exploring pakistani food and people.i just loved your videos …Good Luck

  • Farzana Tonny

    6 days ago

    The hospitality of Pakistani pepe r just awesome.And obviously Mark u r just fantabulous. Ur style of presence any kind of tasty food just fantastic. Mark it will be great honor for us if u visit Bangladesh for once.

    • Joel Bruner

      5 days ago

      Thank you so much for the kind comment Farzana! What a great trip. As For Bangledesh, yes we would absolutely love to visit, hopefully that chance is coming very soon! Take care, have a great day!

  • Anonymous User

    3 weeks ago

    Hi there Mark I was wondering if you could visit Russia one day.

    • Joel Bruner

      5 days ago

      Hi Yuri, it would be absolutely wonderful to visit Russia, we are working on it!

  • chloe

    3 weeks ago

    I’m heading to Pakistan next year and cannot wait to try some of these foods and get to know the people. Thanks

    • Joel Bruner

      5 days ago

      I am sure you will have a wonderful time Chloe, thanks for reading! Have a great day!

  • Perveen Akhtar

    3 weeks ago

    Mesmerizing!!!! How beautifully captured a spoonful tour on wonder land Pakistan. Your visit made charisma for others to step in Pakistan freely……

    • Joel Bruner

      5 days ago

      Perveen, thanks for the great comments and for your support! Have a great day!

  • Sharmin

    3 weeks ago

    Mark em a big fan of yours.when you come next time to pakistan please make sure that u meet with us.loved to see your vdos and thankyou for showing true picture of pakistan.glad that u trusted us and came along with ur kid and wife.and showing the brighter side of us.this is actually we pakistani our not what shown on news

    • Joel Bruner

      5 days ago

      Sharmin, I hope we will have that chance. Until then, thanks a lot for your great support, and have a wonderful day today as well!

  • Ankit yadav

    3 weeks ago

    Hi marc, I also love village food and speciay Punjabi food. This blog made me hungry , nice story

    • Joel Bruner

      5 days ago

      Thank you very much Ankit! Best of luck with your own travel website as well!

  • Anja

    3 weeks ago

    You are a Buddha. More then any of the amazing foods you show is your love for the people preparing it. Namo Buddhaya

    • Joel Bruner

      3 weeks ago

      Thank you Anja, the people here are absolutely wonderful. So gracious and hospitable, it was a really great part of the trip.

    • Joel Bruner

      5 days ago

      Thank you Anja, have a wonderful day today yourself!

  • Ayesha

    3 weeks ago

    Loved reading this. Being a Pakistani, and a big fan of Mark, I was really disheartened that I missed my chance of meeting you guys. You came to my homeland and I couldn’t host you, such a bad luck. I’m in love with thee videos and posts regarding the ultimate PakistanI experience you guys had. I wish I could make biryani and Karahi for you people, at least once.

    • Joel Bruner

      3 weeks ago

      Ayesha, wow, thank you so much. I am sure we would have had a wonderful time, just like we did for all the rest of the amazing experiences throughout the trip. Thank you for you kind words, maybe we will have the chance to meet again next time. We would love to visit Pakistan again immediately 🙂 It was just so much fun being there!

    • Joel Bruner

      5 days ago

      Ayesha, wow. Thank you so much for the incredible offer, and for your great support. Of course we wished we would have had more time in the wonderful country of Pakistan.

  • M asif

    3 weeks ago

    Great insight to village life. The Punjabi are very big hearted East or West Punjab. Hopefully near future A trip to the heart of sindh.

    • Joel Bruner

      3 weeks ago

      Thank you so much M Asif! We would love to visit again, that trip was amazing. Have a wonderful day.

    • Joel Bruner

      5 days ago

      Moasif, you are so right, thanks for your support, and have a wonderful day!

  • Anwar

    3 weeks ago

    This post is so much of what I love about food. I love pakistani cuisine and while I have yet to visit pakistan I have many pakistani friends here in the US. I need to try harder to get invited to any weddings over there. Definitely never heard of tent pegging before either! So Interesting! I love sports and traditions from other parts of the world

    • Joel Bruner

      5 days ago

      Hi Anwar, thanks for the message! You are so right that weddings are one of the best cultural insights that a traveler could ever hope for! As are the way people view sports/entertainment… Good luck with your own travels, and have a great day today!

  • ANITA

    3 weeks ago

    This is just incredible man! I would really love to go there, but you know there is so much info that woman should’t travel there, so I am not sure. :/

    • Joel Bruner

      3 weeks ago

      Hi Anita, thanks for the comment. Well, it is true that women do have restrictions which men do not have to follow, but I would say that the majority of these are just related to dress. We saw women and children everywhere we went, but it was more common to see them in the morning, and then after the sun went down. I am not sure if this is because of the more comfortable weather at those times, or if its just the culture to be more active at those times of day, but I would say that you have nothing at all to fear in Pakistan. Not even one time did we feel threatened or unsafe, it was very much one of the more hospitable places I have ever been to in my life.

      • Jerrin

        3 weeks ago

        As i was watching the videos,really felt like visiting but again news of multiple blasts came now.how safe is it actually.as long these blasts linger in mind its difficult to plan a trip.

        • Joel Bruner

          5 days ago

          Hi Jerrin, you know it is really tough to say – many parts of the world suffer through terrible outbreaks of violence, and yet life always goes on. Just do your best to research through blogs, and personal information, instead of the large media broadcasts, and then (like our website), try to contact people who have personal experience. Pakistan was great to us, and we really did travel extensively, but we also were not just walking around alone for extended lengths of time. For another example, I grew up in Africa, not known to be the most safe place, but in more than 10 years I only had a few nervous incidents, whereas in the USA (studying at Uni for 5 years), I had many, many, more times of fear than I ever did while living in Africa. Ok, best of luck, and of course do what you feel is the safest option.

  • ka

    3 weeks ago

    simply cannot get enough of your, guys, work
    demonstration of cultures and peoples and lands is raw, pure, honest, flawless with their slight imperfections
    well, you have developed something truly AMAZING; the whole world is raving and craving – full steam ahead!! – impatiently looking forward to what’s to come
    p.s. we want even more simplicity – more honesty – just true everyday life of everyday simple folks – no matter how imperfect certain aspects of it might appear – again, loving that you record the smallest of details of a human body, human activity, the environment, the never ceasing life … THANK YOU!!

    • Joel Bruner

      3 weeks ago

      Most wonderful comments Ka, thank you so much for the support! I had a great time living in the present during these incredible experiences, and now I am having fun remembering them. The pictures are great of course, but being there was even so much more special. Thanks again for the great comments, have a wonderful day!